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Woman accused of flat arson is refused bail

By Nevin Farrell

Published 21/10/2016

A woman who told police she set fire to a downstairs flat in an apartment block in Larne because she wanted to kill herself has been refused bail after a judge said her actions could have been "absolutely tragic" for her neighbours.

District Judge Chris Holmes was speaking at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday where Annie Robinson (38), of Blackthorn Rise, Larne, was charged with arson endangering life on October 14. Opposing bail, a police officer said emergency services responded at 4pm last Friday after Robinson, who had mental problems and had tried to take her own life in the past, had threatened to burn down the property.

When police arrived the house was on fire and residents had pulled Annie Robinson out of the burning flat.

The sofa was destroyed and the flat had sustained heavy smoke damage.

The accused was taken to Antrim Area Hospital but after she was released she took tablets and cut herself and had to be re-admitted to hospital. When she was arrested later she told police she lit the fire saying: "I did it, I was trying to kill myself".

The police officer said the PSNI did not release her because of concerns about her mental state.

When Robinson initially appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday she was remanded in custody to prison. The judge said unless he had receipt of a medical report showing Robinson was of limited risk he would not be satisfied.

He said he did not want to wake up to a headline the next morning that a woman released on bail had self-harmed.

He adjourned the bail hearing to Ballymena Magistrates Court and yesterday a defence solicitor handed in a letter from Robinson's GP.

The solicitor said she had a long history of alcohol dependence and said, if released, she could live with her sister in a rural area seven miles from Larne.

The solicitor said Robinson was "vulnerable" and being in custody had been "extremely traumatic" for his client who appeared by video link from prison.

The solicitor said no one else was harmed by the fire and praised the "very brave people" who rescued Robinson.

District Judge Holmes said it was an "extremely tragic situation" but said it could have been "absolutely tragic" had the people who lived around Robinson suffered.

The judge said a thorough "psychological evaluation" is needed and he adjourned the case until November.

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